The USA Women recently participated in a friendly tournament hosted by South Korean Club, Busan BISCO. Overall, they had a solid tournament, highlighted by two easy victories over Australia and Taiwan, as well as relatively competitive matches against Busan Bisco (S. Korea), Erd (Hungary) and EH Aalborg (Denmark).
19 August Busan BISCO (S. Korea) 32, USA 19
Scoring: Jence Rhodes 5, Kathy Darling 4, Nicole Andersen 4, Liz Hartnett 2, Ashley Van Ryn 2, Shani Levinkind 1, Zoe Baird 1
20 August Erd (Hungary) 26, USA 17
Scoring: Kathy Darling 3, Nicole Andersen 3, Ashley Van Ryn 3, Jence Rhodes 2, Liz Hartnett 2, Ashley Butler 2, Zoe Baird 1, Lisa Dunn 1,
21 August EH Aalborg 23, USA 19 Video: Link
Scoring: Kathy Darling 9, Nicole Andersen 2, Sarah Gascon 2, Jence Rhodes 2, Julia Taylor 2, Zoe Baird 1, Shani Levinkind 1,
22 August USA 27, Australia 9
23 August USA 23, Taiwan 13
Note: If the video links don’t work for you, you may want to try different platforms and/or web browsers. I couldn’t get them to work on my Chromebook for some reason, but had no problem with my Microsoft desktop.
Final Tournament Standings
I’ve had an opportunity to view parts of all 5 matches, but I’ve focused primarily on the first 3 matches vs the club teams. For the most part in those 3 matches the U.S. played pretty good defense. Things got out of hand a bit while playing BISCO, but that was often due to fast break opportunities. Sophie Fasold had an outstanding tournament with several saves helping to keep the U.S. in contact with its opposition.
The highlight, in my opinion, was their performance against Erd, the eventual tournament winner and 3rd best pro team in Hungary. I wouldn’t classify them as an elite club team, but right below the highest tier with a few players on their roster also playing for their National Teams in Europe. While the outcome of the match was never in doubt, the U.S. stayed within striking distance most of the match. Yes, a moral victory, but a significant one if you compare it to the uncompetitive matches the U.S. played this past January against French Club sides with less pedigree than Erd.
This surprising performance had me thinking that they could beat EH Aalborg, which is an average team in Denmark’s 2nd Division. Unlike Erd, the Danish club team features several young players and could be classified as mostly semi-professional. Unfortunately, the U.S. did not have a particularly strong performance with turnovers and inconsistent play, losing 23-19.
Overall, I would assess this tournament as an improvement over their efforts this past June at the Pan American Championship. In my opinion, if they had played this well in June they could have well secured 3rd place and World Championship Qualification.
The U.S. Women have no important qualification events until December, 2018 at the earliest. At which point there will be several events related to Olympic and World Championship qualification. Olympic qualification will start with PANAM Games Qualification, which will likely be 2 to 3 matches vs Canada and assuming that goes well the PANAM Games in late July/early August. World Championship qualification should with a North American & Caribbean (NORCA) Championship in the spring followed by the Pan American Championships in June.
In the intervening time, I suspect the USA Women will try to play some friendly matches vs Puerto Rico and other Caribbean teams as well as a training camp in Europe. This lean time could be problematic as a lack of residency program athletes and infrequent competition could see player skills atrophy. I personally would like to see some players that have developed stateside head to Europe for more frequent and better competition. Additionally, the U.S. can’t afford to lose any players as there is no real depth at any position.
I’ll have more to say on the current player pool and residency program recruiting in the coming weeks.